Kaiwan Lewis was out the door following one of his workouts, the former star linebacker for Rutgers facing nearly a two-hour long drive from the facility where he is training for another shot at the NFL, now heading down the Garden State Parkway to Atlantic City. But it isn’t a night of gambling and fun for Lewis, who is instead commuting to work at a casino, all part of a 70-hour work week where he also is training full-time for professional football.
The story of Lewis, a graduate transfer from South Carolina who stood out for Rutgers during the 2015 season, has been filled with plenty of twists and even more bumps. Last spring prior to his Pro Day at Rutgers, Lewis claimed a tweaked hamstring just a couple days before the event in front of dozens of NFL scouts. He ran hurt and after the NFL Draft, there were no calls from NFL teams offering him a tryout or a spot at rookie minicamp.
Shortly after that disappointment, that May Lewis started working in a casino as a security specialist where he oversees things such as investigations, thefts and the filing of reports for incidents that take place on the resort property. A criminal justice major in college, it was a natural transition for him.
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He also works with the Atlantic City Department of Public Safety as well as interning two days a week at the courthouse. It totals to well over 70 hours a week.
“It’s very instinctive. You have a heart but at the same time, you have to keep your heart of it,” Lewis told Metro. “You have to think fast and do the right thing, be decisive.”
In short, Lewis is required to read and react, not unlike the skills shown by a linebacker who once played in the SEC and the Big 10. As a senior at Rutgers, he finished with 69 tackles, third on the team as well as having two interceptions. The production seems to be there for NFL scouts.
As for the work ethic, there’s no question about that.
A 70-hour work schedule as well as an internship is grueling enough, even when his NFL ambitions aren’t factored in. But after a few months at work and away from football, he realized that he didn’t want to give up on being on the field. So he continues to work two jobs and intern, all while training five days a week at TEST Football Academy in Martinsville, New Jersey.
Most athletes training for the NFL Draft view that as a full-time job in and of itself. They may take an online class or two to further their pursuit of a college degree, but generally they don’t even hold a part-time job as they ready for a shot at the NFL. Their focus and their energy is all into playing on Sundays.
Then there’s Lewis, who holds essentially two full-time jobs plus an internship while keeping up a full slate of workouts with other NFL prospects. Oh yes, and he commutes over three hours a day, roundtrip, to TEST in order to do so.
Lewis trained at the facility last year and is back again this year. It is a schedule he will keep up for the next two months with an eye towards hopefully again running at Rutgers Pro Day. This day he hopes to be healthy and ready.
He certainly sounds ready.
“With the year off, it has been beneficial to my health. I’m feeling great. I came into TEST last week,” Lewis said, speaking in the car as he commuted back down to Atlantic City following a three-hour workout with 30 other NFL hopefuls at TEST.
He daily makes the trip from Atlantic City to Somerset County, often leaving his job at the Department of Public Safety to get a couple hours of sleep then head to central Jersey for the workouts at TEST. Then he immediately leaves to head to the casino. Then repeat the next day.
“Getting into the work field, I realized that I’m a football player. The fact of the matter is: How bad do I want it? What do I want to do to get to it? I will do anything, this is what I want, this is my dream,” Lewis said.
“My motto is to ‘Stay humble, eat crumbs.’ This is long, it is tough. It isn’t easy. My job, the days … I don’t sleep very much. But it is what I want.”